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Greg Hawkins was on staff at Willow Creek for 22 years, and is the co-founder of REVEAL research. He’s the author of five books, including Move and More. He’s currently on staff at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, TX, working with Senior Minister Max Lucado.

His latest book, More, is the first book written from REVEAL research targeted to church attenders, not church leaders. It primarily details the journey from “Stage 3 to Stage 4,” using your language.

“Come and Be With Me” (Stage 3)

Welcome to another episode of The Discipleship Podcast for Church Leaders, from Ascending Leaders. In previous podcasts, we’ve talked about Christ’s last will and testament: to make disciples. To make better disciples, to make more disciples. And how important it is for churches to actually define what they mean by a disciple. Here at Ascending Leaders, we consider disciples as someone who is growing in their love for God, loving Him more deeply and resulting in loving others more selflessly.

You’re probably listening to this because you would love to do a better job of discipleship in your congregation. I’ve really found that the four stages, that Christ used with the first 12, and also that’s been talked about in the REVEAL Survey and in other books, is just very, very helpful in improving how we do discipleship.

We’ve been talking in recent episodes about the first stage and the second stage. That second stage is really about learning, growing, doing. It’s often largely dependent on the local church body for spiritual growth. Today we’re going to focus on the third stage, the stage that Jesus calls, “Come and Be With Me.” In Mark 3:14 we read, “…he appointed the twelve that they might be with him.”

Some estimate that that stage lasted for up to almost two years as part of Jesus’ ministry for the twelve.

We have a very special guest with us. I’m pleased that my friend Greg Hawkins is here, and Greg has been part of REVEAL from the early days. He was sitting in the front seat when they were dreaming up REVEAL back there at Willow Creek, and then he wrote several of the books about REVEAL. The original book, Reveal, then Move, and recently in the last year I read his book, More, which focuses really on that fourth stage. That Christ-centered stage.

Greg is the perfect person to be chatting together about people at the third stage, the “Close to Christ” stage; what they’re like, what they need, how we can better help them as a church, what we can expect from them.

So, Greg, welcome! Really glad you’re here.

Anything else you can tell us about yourself that people would like to know?


Thank you, Mike. It’s good to be with you.

You can look on the surface at work and all that kind of stuff, but this really is, this journey for me, is my daily life. It’s not like you study it at arms’ length or something else like that. It’s the goal of my life. And work follows out of that.

It’s not like I do work, and then hey, it would be good to know this stuff. As I was talking to you earlier, as recently as a conversation this morning with my wife, triggered a thought and that led me into a conversation with God and had me divert part of my morning — instead of going straight to the office, I stopped at Starbucks for half an hour and sat and thought about something God had put on my heart.

So it’s a constant process. It’s not like a bunch of us figured this all out. It’s still part of the process. I want to make that clear; I love to share what I’m learning, not what I’ve learned.

I can tell you what I’m learning TODAY. I know a lot of people think, I haven’t arrived yet, or who am I to tell a bunch of people how to disciple and lead people in a process… and I’m telling you, what God needs is a person who goes, “I don’t know most of the day, but here’s what I do know. Here’s who I love. Here’s what I’m pursuing.” Just a tremendous amount of openness and tolerance. And when I hear that from people… And what I mean is, tolerance of your own failures. And you hear people say, “Well, I don’t know much.” But you hear their heart, and I just smile because I go, that’s the right heart! That’s what God needs. God needs an open and responsive and a soft heart, and He promises He’ll do the rest. He does.

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Thanks. And speaking about yourself, that’s a good place to go because it reminds me in your most recent book, where you talked about one of the key differences between those who are close to Christ and those who are Christ-centered. Let’s see if I get that right. That is, at Christ-centered you’re going to obey purely out of the act of obedience to God. Close to Christ, you’re often obeying still for the benefit for yourself. At those times where I’m probably acting more like I’m close to Christ than Christ-centered, one of the ways I know that is that I get caught up in how I feel about something that I’m doing. Even if I am obeying, how I feel about it.

How about you? What does it look like in your life, those moments when you think you’re acting more like a “Stage Three,” Close to Christ person? What does that look like for you?


The big shift is, the move from two to three, three is where people are integrating their faith into their daily life. Two is really an activity-based, very church-centric faith. A lot of church activity, getting up to speed about what it means to be with God and this relationship, and all that, and you’re still learning a lot. The move to three is you’ve decided you WANT this relationship with God to go beyond Sundays, or Saturday nights, Wednesday nights, whenever it is, and you work to integrate it into your daily living.

But still, the focus is about the benefit you get to your life. Like you said, “Be With Me.” So, I’m going to be with him, because it’s great to be with him. I gain something from being with him. And that’s great. And we learn the skills of how to spend time with Jesus, how to follow him better. But it’s still from the point of view of my ego-centric self. I gain something. The “I”… that’s the key phrase.

The move to four is when you drop the “I.” Meaning, I am wanting to be with you, Jesus, just to be with you. Not because it gives me something.

The key that tells me I’m operating out of a three or four space, is my motive. Why am I doing this now?

Or, when I feel upset, like this morning I was a little upset. My wife, very loving, just said something that just bugged me. It wasn’t about her, it was about me. It was about my self-perception, it was about me protecting a self-image. Which told me there was still too much of “me” in my life right now.

I can’t love another person if I get in the way of loving them. I’ve got to get out of the way and have Christ be present through me. And so, that’s the key.

And the other thing I’m finding is when I do that, and then I get to where I laugh at myself, or I have a smile on my face, it’s like, okay, that’s stage four. Where you don’t shame yourself. I just go, yeah. The smile is realizing that Jesus is smiling, going like, “I just want to be with you. I’ve got all of this. I will take care of all this. You’re going to be okay.”

And I’m learning that I’m actually smiling more, and it’s interesting because I’ve been known as a serious person. I like to have a lot of fun, I think, and I’m fairly creative and animated and stuff, but there’s a lightness in stage four. Three is still striving, all the daily disciplines, what I’ve got to do… and you’re just feeling like this is so… now it’s not just Sunday stuff, now it’s Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday stuff, and time with God alone… Because we still have this activity model of the stuff we do for God, with God, all that stuff.

Which, developmentally, I’ve got to do. I’ve got to develop some core ways of being with God, but at some point, what happens as people develop in stage three, it’s not just a static thing, it’s a dynamic process. In late stage three, what starts happening is you’ve now integrated all of this. You’ve figured out, what about church activities that you’re going to do, plus your personal stuff, and you kind of find this portfolio of spiritual practices both with others and by yourself with God, that you’ve kind of adopted. My sense is then, that you go back to still going, “Why don’t I feel completely fulfilled? Why don’t I feel completely at peace? I’m doing everything I know I can possibly do.” That’s the conditions where someone then, and I think God draws them to, another way of being. It’s not the next activity, it’s actually your motive, what’s at the center and then you lay down.

You literally lay down your life, which means the “I”-centered, ego-centric… “I use God.” I’m using God to have a better life. God helps me every day essentially have a better life. Which is true, but you get to a place where you kind of, I don’t know, God works on you or you see somebody else living another way, and you go, “That can’t be right. That person doesn’t have all this burden on them.” Because that’s when you lay it down and go, “Alright, this isn’t about me.”

This is not a one-and-done. This is every single day, many moments in the day, and the Spirit does the work to show you the moments that you’re living for yourself versus really living WITH Him. Truly being with Him means the abiding, the ever-present awareness that you are connected to Him and there is nothing that can sever that connection, and nothing you need to do…

Does that make sense?


That does. You’re bringing to mind, probably one of my early experiences of moving from stage two toward stage three was about 20 years ago. I’d hope after 20 years, I’m solidly in the fourth stage, but I feel like I’m often vacillating between three and four, and at my worst times back into the doing and feeling sorry for myself.

But something you said that really made me think about that experience I had 20 years ago… So, I had been going through a relational wilderness. Really had done some experimenting with the classical disciplines, but in that time got into a lot of solitary retreating, and a spiritual director. And found that that was one of the things that really got me through that very difficult time in my life. But then, after it was subsiding, all of a sudden in a spiritual retreat, I was thinking, “I’m on this spiritual retreat because I get more peace out of it. I’m not on it, first of all, to be with God.” And thought, huh, there’s something wrong with that picture.

Even though it’s taken me a while to get beyond the benefits I get… I kind of think that’s what you’re talking about. Kind of stage three, there’s the benefits, and that insight 20 years ago, was putting your toe into stage four. Saying, “I need to be alone with God simply for being with Him because He desires that, not even because of any rewards which I’ll reap out of this.”


Again, on the surface you might be doing the same things. It’s kind of what’s going on inside of you. You were seeking something for yourself, like, “I want this peace.” And then you can find yourself retreating to just be with God. There’s no agenda.

Oh, and by the way, you’ll be filled with peace.

I’m always mindful of, it’s not a shame thing. There’s a gentleness on the other side that, I’ll be honest, to experience the gentleness of God. “My burden is light…” Really, yeah, seriously?

No. That’s what that means. When you feel totally as accepted as you know how to feel accepted, beyond any human understanding of what acceptance looks like.

It’s not performance based. And then you realize, what is this that I’m encountering? This is beyond… And then you know you’re okay.

If I heard myself say that ten years ago, I’d be like, “What in the world?”

So that’s why this idea of a migration, and there’s no shame in three or two or anything, it’s just, you have to learn it. I grew up in the church, and I think I grew up in a good church, and I want God, so I’m going to do all of this, because that’s what I know to do. And if no one has ever told you any different, the work of stage three, really, from two to three, is to invite people into daily living with God. To move out of the activity-based, mostly centric around the church activity, into this how to live daily with God.


Can we just go a little bit deeper with that? This is what is so counter-intuitive for churches. They say, “What do we do to help people get from stage 2 to stage 3?” And that movement is actually from doing to being. So, how can churches help people better move to or toward or into that third stage?


I don’t think I’ve found the right words to talk about this yet, but I’m going to keep working at it until I land on something that… People don’t know what’s next.

I see all this church organization, and this invitation to be involved in this activity or that, that makes sense to me, I understand that. Then they go, “Now you need to spend time with God personally.” And I go, “Why?” I don’t even get it.

The first step to helping them is to cast a vision, to give them a narrative, a logic flow, a teaching, all of the above, that goes, “Wait a minute, the next step for us is this daily living with God.” It’s not just an episodically, around activities…

Now, it’s not the goal to make you a better person, more saved, or anything like that.

It’s, this is how we were designed to live. This is your internal wiring as a human being…was made to be in this abiding union with God.

Stop right there with people, because their first barrier is, “What? I just thought God was like, if I’m in a little trouble, He swoops in, it’s great to have Him as a back-up plan.” Or, “Hey, I thought that was just about the afterlife. What are you talking about? Let’s not get crazy about religion. I go to church like a couple of times a month. Seriously?”

But it’s wooing people. If in your example, as you talk about your walk in front of them, and they should see the fruit of the Spirit coming out of your life. Joy and laughter and peace and an anchoredness, and they go, “Wait a minute.” Yeah, that’s because I’m spending time with God. That doesn’t mean I’m pious or any better than anybody, it’s just… what I’m learning is, it’s not about what I do, it’s this quiet space, or this slower space, or private space, or it’s even in community with others. This invitation that God makes to be with Him, like you say, and the way we help them is A) we give them a vision for it, B) we have some things about what does that mean, about prayer, about the Bible, and about community with others. Simple little things like that.

So, let’s talk about prayer as a relational thing, not as a — as you and I were talking about earlier before this started, as a two-way dialogue. How do you hear God? Maybe we need to talk about the work of the Holy Spirit a little bit. Or the Bible, how do I engage with the Bible relationally? I thought the Bible was just about knowledge, and like, teachers needed to know it. Versus, this is a very…it’s a love letter. It’s a very long book about crazily in love God is, and how regardless of what we do, He still pursues us and wants us and has a plan for us and is never going to give up. On us or the human race.

And how time with God draws us closer to God. And most people are like, “What? I thought it was just to be smarter or…”

My point is, community with others is beyond what you do at church. The invitation to have friends that you share your life with, and have them speak into your life and you speak into their life, and how we integrate our faith into our daily living. Well, we do that with others.

So, it’s a vision, it’s giving some basic tools, and then there’s more advanced practices. But that’s the thing, is establishing them and how to integrate… I’ll just keep beating that over the head.

Now, once that happens, in the move to three or four, then that’s a different thing. Because there’s another vision for it.

But if I cast a vision of life with God in stage four to someone early in stage two, they’re going to look at you like, “No, you’re freaking me out right now.”


I find that even can get them stuck, because it’s so crazy that they just shut themselves off to it, right?


And see, here’s the thing I learned a long time ago, Peter Senge in the book The Fifth Discipline, one of the fathers of the learning organization work twenty, thirty years ago, he had this great metaphor in this book. He says, imagine your two hands are fingers spread apart and you’re putting them together like you’re clapping and your fingers are touching each other. Index finger to index finger, etc. Now imagine you stretch rubber bands across each pairing of fingers. And you then separate your hands, and as the rubber bands engage you feel that tension. Now, have them be one hand on top of the other hand. The hand on the bottom is your current reality. Where you are. The hand on top is where you want to go. And the tension you feel is the energy you need to make change in your life. Or, the tension is such that you go, “I don’t want to work that hard,” and you release the tension, so the gap between the two hands is kind of small.

What it represents is this kind of tension. What he says is, if your vision for the future is… if the gap between the future vision and where you are now is too big, the rubber bands break and there is no tension.

So, you think casting a bigger vision of this gap of where we want to go aspirationally is the right thing to do. He goes, it’s not, because you’ve lost all tension in the conversation.

If I cast a radically with-God “four” to a two, that gap between where their living and where you’re describing to them is so large in their mind, that’s not compelling at all. Like you just said.

In fact, there’s no energy in that. That doesn’t move them to take the next step. Right?

So, you need to cast a vision that’s appropriate for a next step for them, and then sort of envision them, and then offer some coaching, and potentially offer, whether that’s equipping or class, or… you know, there’s a fresh vision for everybody along the way. There’s a fresh vision for a stage four person. What the far end of this journey, before we see God face-to-face, looks like.


I really appreciate you emphasizing the vision. Because it is so easy at that point, when you try to call people into stage three, to kick into the guilt motivation. Right? You “should” want this, hey, if Christ is important to you, if he is, you “should” desire this. Shame on you if you don’t.

It’s just so easy to shift into that. It’s so subtle.


If you catch yourself doing that, you have a problem. Because there’s no way in the world Jesus would want you to talk that way to his people. A) You’re going to have a little interesting talk with him at some point about that, and B) It should be the signal in your own life that something is off.

You’re inviting them to do something that you’re not living.

You can’t do that.

So, there is a gentleness because you know what path you ran, you should feel in your body how it was to be in their shoes. Implying that you were in their shoes and you’re a little bit further on the journey. A little bit further. That’s all you need. A little bit further.

If you can’t conjure that up, it’s not there.

The invitation is “Be With Me,” and THEN I will send you. Then you understand what my job is, is to extend the gift of presence, His presence, to every single person I interact with in every moment of every day. Which looks like loving them, and caring for them, and serving them, and have their interests be above your interests. So, big deal if your schedule is inconvenienced and your day got disrupted. It’s not your day.

Being mindful of the pronouns will show you where you are in your spiritual life.


You’ve already touched on this a number of times, but let’s really focus and dig into this. What does somebody in that third stage, “Close to Christ,” look like at their best? What are some of the strengths of this stage? What does it look like when somebody is spending a lot of time at this stage?


For most of this stage, there’s a lot of excitement. Because, you’re discovering a whole different realm of your relationship with Christ. When it’s activity-based, you get this value, it’s episodic, it’s sort of event-driven. When you can access that regularly, it’s very empowering, you feel like this is fantastic. Now you are going to another level of experience in a relationship. It’s be like, imagine your closest friend, you see once a year, or you see once a month, or every other week… that’s a good relationship. If we got to be together pretty much every day, like you were my next-door neighbor and we got breakfast three days a week, and our kids are in the backyard, and we have a meal together with our family, that’s another level of richness in the relationship.

That’s what’s happening here. You have access to this. So, it’s very, very exciting. I think you feel more empowered, knowing you’re not dependent on the structure of a church-based activity for your relationship. You can see the benefit of that, but you have more of God in your life so you actually have something to share to somebody else. And can start playing the role of a discipler and helping another person, which is very gratifying.

For most of this, it’s very exciting. And then what happens is that plateaus. You’ve now done everything that you know to do, and you’re still kind of doing a bunch of stuff. And then, you hit this kind of glass ceiling of intimacy and closeness with God, because it was growing at this rapid rate and now you’re going, huh?


Let’s pause there. What does that look like, when someone gets stuck? I think you’re starting to touch on that.


You start hearing it in people’s voices. “My church isn’t doing it for me anymore…” And you’re like, well, it wasn’t supposed to do everything to begin with, so let’s deprogram that out of your brain.

I hear it a lot in people that my wife and I are around; a lot of people from different churches, they start church hopping, shopping, because their experience of God kind of hit a plateau, which exposes that they’re still very event-driven or activity-driven and they’re looking for the next coolest activity or experience of God. And when no one is telling you that there’s anything different, and then when others tell you about this cool new ministry or this other thing you should do, or this podcast you should listen to, or this preacher, it saddens me, because I don’t think these people are exposed to the true idea of what Jesus is inviting them to next.

So, what happens here is, some of these folks go, “I guess this is as good as it gets now. The longing I feel is the longing for heaven.” So they label it, and they go, “Oh, okay. Well, this is life now, and I just gotta wait to die.” That’s not true. And there is more. And the more is, where you go, the realization that “I’m really kind doing all this for me.”

And the invitation from Christ is, sell all your possessions, leave everything behind, and follow me. Now, we read that and freak out. The equivalent of that though is, you don’t have to put it all on eBay. You can let go of everything that you have an attachment to. And say, “God, I want you more than anything else.” Period.

Not so that I have more peace or prosperity or whatever you want to say.


It’s interesting, last night my wife and I were reading Colossians 3, and it just caught me like it’s never caught me before, where it’s talking about gossip, and whatnot, and it says, “which is idolatry.” All that stuff, not the stuff we own, but the character stuff we struggle with, wow, it’s because of idolatry.

I always knew that, but then just to see that so clearly in Scripture in a way that it had never jumped out at me before.


My reading of Scripture these days is so very different. Because I now understand it through… Every time around, there’s something new we can learn, every time.

Anyway, so, three is a great place to be. The thing is, is really to celebrate this — it sounds odd, in a way — independence from the dependency on the church to organize spiritual things for you. You organize them for yourself, taking advantage if you will of what the church offers, but knowing you’re part of the body to give back. But to also have people around who understand that that’s not the landing place.

There is a FOUR, whatever you want to call it.

To ever imply that people… when people go, “Did I do everything I needed to do.” And you go, okay, that alone should give you a clue as to where someone is at developmentally. They’re just trying to check off a box. And that’s okay. So at least I know where they’re at, and we can have a conversation about what might be next for them.

I’m finding that the discipling work… See, the other thing is, organizing discipleship efforts in a church, to guard your words so carefully and really guard your motive. Because a lot of people just want to build the right box. “I want to put you in this box, and you come out the other end a disciple.” And it’s like, oh gosh, that’s dangerous.

Now, if we go, here’s the journey we’re on, and we’re all on a journey, and the journey is toward restoring our relationship with God and others, the way it was intended to be lived, and we believe that heaven can come to earth now, and not just later, and what does that mean to be restored in a relationship with God? It’s not just to tell God, once and forever, I am so sorry and I need Jesus, and oh okay…now, that’s true, and that’s an important piece…understanding that relationships cultivated over your human life where you essentially are stripping yourself bare and just being with Him and giving Him access to everything in your life, and giving Him access to your agenda, your calendar, your pocket book, your relationships, your work, everything. And any area of your life that is still your own is a form of idolatry. It’s like, I’m holding onto this for myself because I want this thing more than I want you, God, was really what we’re telling Him.

The point is, discipleship is relational. And there’s these things that we can do to help people develop some skills and to be exposed to environments that can cultivate this reunion with God and others.

For us, the ones designing these kinds of programs, we’ve got to get clear. It starts with, we have to be on this journey ourselves. I find myself in conversations like this and others where I have this thing in my head just checking myself, going like, “Am I really, really living that way.” And then I go, probably not consistently, but am I trying? Is that in my desire? Is that what I’ve laid bare before God? Do I understand that I am never done?

And it’s not to prove anything. It’s just when we get to heaven, and we see how it was supposed to be on Earth, but we’re all going to go, “Oh my gosh, that was how we were supposed to live? On Earth? That’s how it could have been, and I just settled for…” And there’s no shame in that, there’s not. But there’s going to be that moment of awareness. Some people are going to go like, “Why did no one ever tell me?” And as a pastor, I feel the responsibility to go okay, on my watch, or at least the people God puts in my life, starting with my wife and my kids, to understand what we’re here for… I have that picture in my head. I have it in my head, and it’s like, oh my gosh, what was it supposed to be like to be with you, God? There was power available? And there was more that you wanted to say, and I just didn’t slow myself down and listen to you?

I promise you, if you are remotely open to hear Him, He will speak. In a way that you can hear, and you will know it’s Him and not, like, the pizza from last night.


One of the things I’m thinking too, related to that, is that one of the best ways to help people move from the second stage into the third towards the fourth, there’s no program to do it, but is really to help people listen to God. Listen to Him.

Even not…you know, sacrifice means doing “A.” Sacrifice is different for different people. It means hearing God telling you to do something that’s very difficult for you. You may be an extroverted person, and it’s to do something very introverted. Or vice versa.

But just teaching people to… and we can all grow at that. I think that’s a key part of it, helping people to listen to God. Maybe even more so than listen to you. Right?

To listen to God and to know His voice. There’s the part about obeying it, but still not obeying these external pressures on you, even if they’re pressures from a church, hearing God.


That is dead-on. If you’ve heard from Him, now you have a choice. A lot of times, it’s like, “What am I going to do with what I just heard?” And then if you can listen, and you realize He’s speaking all the time. To get to a place where you really, really believe He wants to be with you moment by moment, period.

And we just go so fast that… even when you think you’re slow, on the outside, your inside could be churning.

I’m working on a whole new set of ideas for a new book, and it’s coming out of this daily living stuff, which is, at some point, you get to a place where, “I don’t need another church activity. I don’t need another…I mean, I read my Bible every day, and I do that because, I tell you what, I’ve gotten to where I NEED to hear from God through that tool, through that medium of the Word of God, and I’ve had enough bad days where I look back and go, a bad day is where I hurt somebody. I know I was supposed to do one thing, and I had a slight hesitation, even in that slight hesitation was a self-centered idea, and that hesitation cost another person something.” My tolerance for that is…not because I’m a perfectionist, it’s just that I knew what the thing to do would have been loving and I chose in a moment to choose not to love that person that way because of whatever reason. Some days I have more of those moments than others. I trace it back to, I started this day off too fast. I had my agenda, I microwaved time with God, I didn’t really spend time… I didn’t start my day centered. It’s not magic, and it’s not some kind of goofy thing I’m doing. I just know, my gosh, the stakes… The stakes become clearer and clearer to me every day.


In your book, you say something really good — we talk about making it a habit, but notice when you make it a habit, like flossing my teeth, I’ve got to say, okay, set myself a reminder, floss my teeth each day. Rather, it’s like eating a meal. I don’t have to force myself to eat a meal. I get hungry, and I want a meal. That’s a distinct difference.


And again, moving that direction… I’ve taken on some new disciplines and doing some things a little bit differently starting maybe about a year ago. And now they’re becoming second nature. I’m finding that there are certain things that…but it had to be so conscious, and that’s a topic for another time…

The point being is, it’s this ongoing, ever-exciting adventure.

See, that’s the other thing. If we’re casting vision, for three and four, it’s NOT to be a better person, a better Christian, a better disciple, a better anything… There is this relationship with the most remarkable person ever, period. Bar none. Who you can spend the whole day with, day after day, forever. And you don’t have to wait until you die to do that.

And yeah, some days are going to be so hard and painful, and it will be so sad, okay. And why that’s how that is, you can go through a million things, this doesn’t make all that go away. It’s just there’s this peace in the middle, this presence in the middle, this hope in the middle. And there’s joy.

It might sound really weird, but I think that in the last year of my life, I’ve discovered joy. I turn 55 in a couple of weeks, and I’ve been walking with God I think pretty much 50 years of that. And it’s like, “Oh, THIS is what this is!”

My point is, it’s not this burdensome crazy thing, “I’ve got to be with God every day.” My first goal is to help you want to be with God, more than on Sunday. If I can’t live in front of you in a way that you’d want maybe a fragment of what you see in my life, that’s where it starts. But if I’m exhorting them… I mean, sometimes you need to do that, I guess, but… I’m wooing them. They should see in my life, they should see the Spirit of God living through me, and the Spirit of God in me resonates with the Spirit of God in them. Where there’s this desire, and that gets stirred. Not because I’m clever, it’s just because I’m transparent.


This has been wonderful, and just to summarize a few of the key themes I heard from you as we talked…

One is that you need to be there yourself. You need to be growing through stage three towards and into stage four. You need to be painting that vision for what it is for people to be there, and call them to that, not try to push them to that or guilt them to that. Give people some avenues for moving in that direction of deeper intimacy with God, not about doing more things. Helping them get there.

And that people at this stage, they’re excited, but you can also get stuck there. I even wonder if, you know, there’s been this new phenomenon that’s been written about, people who have been in church a long time and they leave the church completely. For some, I think it is maybe a stuckness in stage three. Just saying, the church is just “do, do, do” and I want to be with God, so maybe I just need to leave the organized church.

But hey, it’s been great, Greg. This is a wonderful stage. It’s an important stage in our growth. And yet we need to not get stuck there, and move past that. A big part of that is moving toward obedience and sacrifice — not for what it does for me, but…


The thing is, we don’t want to microwave people through three. Because here’s the thing. You HAVE to get to the end of yourself before you let go of yourself. If you’re not letting go of yourself, you’re not letting go of much. You’ve got to get to a place where you’ve done everything you know to do to experience the fullness of God. And you realize, it’s not about me.

You need to have a life to lose a life. You need to have something to let go of it, so you’ve actually let go of something. I’m learning that, where it’s like, “I wish I had gotten here sooner.” NO. I can’t appreciate this…


So, grow deeper into stage three in order to get to stage four. That’s part of it right?


And if I move into three, and you go, this is so great, then live the heck out of that. You’re going to eventually hit a wall, I think you will. And it’s like, “Oh…it means I now have to let go.” And that, to me… if I’m still appealing to your ego of what this is going to do for you, helping you go from two to three, there’s still a value proposition that’s good for me. Three to four is like wait a minute, that’s when you’re really letting go.


And that’s why maybe so few people actually get there in their lifetime.

Hey, it’s been great. May God richly bless you and may you have today a very good day, which means maybe at the end of the day you say, I can’t recall a moment when I hurt someone else today.


That’s right. Thank you for that prayer.

Dr. Michael Johnson

Founder and Executive Director​ of Ascending Leaders

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